Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pot Luck

When I was 12, I lived in Lake Villa with my Aunt and my best friend, Rick, lived in Johnsburg. Rick was the son of my Aunt's best friend, so whenever my Aunt and his Mom would get together, Rick and I would hang out. Rick was a great guy and whenever I hung out with him I'd always do all kinds of amazing things that I'd never get to do with my friends back home. Like one weekend I'd take up smoking cigarettes, the next weekend we'd throw rocks at oncoming traffic and on my next visit we'd dress up like women and go out on the town. Luckily, that last adventure was on Halloween.

One warm summer day, my Aunt dropped me off at Rick's house to visit and she planned to pick me up later that evening. When I went inside, Rick's parents were both at work and there were three other guys hanging around. Right away, Rick tells me, "Hey, if I show you something, you gotta promise to keep your mouth shut about it." Of course I said yeah, so he takes me to the kitchen and opens up the oven. They had taken all but the bottom rack out and there, piled all the way to the top, was a gigantic mound of pot. Well, I didn't know it was pot at first, I just said, "What the hell are you guys cooking?".

"It's the weed I told you about", Rick said. Last time I was over, Rick had gone on an on about a friend of a friend of a friend who had cut through a local cornfield a couple weeks earlier and managed to stumble upon an acre or so of mary jane planted smack in the middle. He had asked me to come along, as he and some other guys had plans to sneak out of their houses in the middle of the night and check it out for themselves. I had said I was busy and ditched on the plans because frankly I thought the whole story reeked of urban legend, and Rick always loved that crap.

Well, Rick and a few buddies had gone out there and actually found the spot and managed to get away with some weed. Now they needed to dry out as much as they could before his parents came home. Truth be told, at 12, my knowledge of the "curing" and preparation of marijuana was minimal, but we all acted like we knew what we were doing. Sure, everyone knows it needs to be dried, then you have get the buds off the stems and get the seeds out. We all grew up watching Cheech & Chong, didn't we?

Rick then tells me, "You've gotta take some of this pot off my hands though. If my parents find it, they'll kill me." I didn't see the big deal, "If you four guys split it up once it's dry, it'll probably only be like a couple ziplock bags each". "Oh yeah, the stuff in the oven will be no problem..." he says, "but come here". Rick then leads me out to the shed in the back yard and opens the door. Once my eyes adjust to the darkness, I see that there are 6 or 8 black garbage bags piled in the corner. "holy crap!"I couldn't believe it, "yeah" is all he could say. I told Rick I'd have to pass. My Aunt was picking me up a little later, and hiding a quarter ounce would be one thing, but I was pretty sure she'd notice if I threw a garbage bag of weed into the trunk.

In the end, I'm not sure what ever became of the bags of weed. At 12, I didn't have any interest in pot yet. If I had it today, though, I'm pretty sure I could retire.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Thin Ice

I grew up in Island Lake, Illinois. It's this tiny little crap town that, oddly enough, has a lake.In my high school years I lived there with my Dad at my Grandmother's house, which was right on the lake. It always seemed like there were NO cool people who lived on my side of the lake and all of my friends lived on the other side. For this reason, most days, I'd ride my friend's bus home from school and get off at their stop, hang out at their house for a while and then walk around the lake to get home. During the winter months this trek was significantly shortened since the lake was frozen and I could just cut across.

In the winter of my sophomore year I was taking the icy shortcut daily and because it was sooo much shorter, I continued well into March, long after any sane person would walk on the ice. The ice was still pretty thick in most spots but there were gaping holes in other areas.

One evening I left my friend's house and started out across the lake. I knew right away that is was risky because I could feel the ice sink a little with each step, like walking on a mattress. I was able to see well enough to avoid the holes and just tried to keep moving. I made it about three-quarters of the way across the lake when I suddenly heard a loud wet crack. Luckily, I was able to grab onto the closest ledge of ice as I fell in so that I didn't slip under the ice. I tried to stay calm and made many attempts to pull myself back up on the ice, but the ice around me was just too thin to support me and would crack off each time.

This is when I began to scream for help for what seemed an eternity. Finally a girl in the neighborhood heard me and called the police/fire department/ambulance. Again, it felt like a year passed until any of them arrived. All during the wait, the girl talked to me, trying to make sure that I didn't pass out or go into shock or something. The whole time waiting, I was constantly flexing my toes and fingers. I didn't think I would die or anything, but I was scared as hell of losing anything to frostbite. The rescue teams had some difficulty reaching me, first trying a boat, eventually ending up using a diver dragging a rowboat. Once I was out of the water, I was fine, just insanely cold. I was rushed to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia and shock. It took forever for the violent shivers to stop and to actually feel comfortable again.

Once I was calmed down I received phone calls from concerned friends and family. My friends were planning on coming to the hospital to visit the next day, so even though I felt ok, I told my Dad I thought I should stay another day, just in case. When my friends showed up they brought gifts and cards, it was the best.

It was nearly time to leave the next day when my Dad came in and said, "Hey Son, can I talk to you?". "Sure", I said. "We found what was in your bag". I had no idea what he was talking about. Then from behind him he pulls out this book titled "Teen Depression & Suicide". I nearly laughed out loud when I saw it. I had been working on a report for Health class and that was the topic I'd been given. Once I explained the book, he was relieved, and we did have a little laugh about it.

I didn't give it any more thought that day, but later, once I had my own kids, I thought of how terrible that must have been for my Dad. First, to go through the trauma of finding out I fell in the ice and then to believe that it may have been an attempt at suicide. I've pictured the nurse or doctor pulling my Dad aside, saying, "Sir, we found this in your son's school bag". That makes me feel the worse than anything.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Tis the season for traditions and I love a great tradition as much as the next guy, maybe even more. I don’t intend to get up on my soapbox to criticize the youth of America today, but I feel that it’s my duty to at least point out a severe injustice that is taking place each and every day. This near-criminal act of negligence is the fault of parents, cousins and older siblings all across the country. I believe that it is our responsibility to pass on the sacred schoolyard traditions of our youth, and that’s not happening people. For the sake of keeping this fine art form alive and well, I beg of you, please find it in your hearts to instruct the little children of the world. I know that if you try, really try, you can all remember those sweet poems, affectionate pet names and the fun play on words that were really special. In case you come up empty, I’ve supplied a few to give you a warp-speed trip down memory lane.
-          I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you
-          No cuts, no butts no coconuts
-          I don’t grow up, I look at you and throw up, then you come around the corner and lick it up
-          (for the ladies) look down the front of your shirt and spell attic
-          Me Chinese, me play joke, me go pee-pee in your Coke
-          Cootie-spray
-          Fatty Fatty two by four, can’t fit through the bathroom door, so she did it on the floor, licked it up and did some more
-          Please?! I’ll be your best friend!
-          Some fun pet names: gayrod, gaymo, Gaylord, homo, dickweed, queerbait, test tube baby, dicksmack, cock-knocker, pole-smoker, butt-humper, crack baby, dickless, dillweed, & dillhole
-          Do you like me/will you go out with me, Circle Yes or No
-          Hold your tongue and say “I was born on a pirate ship”
-          When you really get someone good, say “Burn!!”
-          “Same to you and more of it!”
-          Up for grabs, down for safety
-          “Did your Mom have any kids that lived?”
Ok folks, that should get you started. Now, please treat this phenomenon seriously, get out there and bring it back!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

See No Evil

Growing up, I was never a big fan of super heroes or comic books. I tolerated episodes of Superman, Captain America and Spiderman, but only if nothing else was on tv. My main issue with the super hero concept was the whole do-gooder aspect of it. The thought of having these amazing abilities and putting them to use so unselfishly for the good of all seemed ridiculous to me.

I never dreamed of flying or having super strength to pummel my opponents, although, I'm pretty sure I achieved super speed running from some dudes in jr. high. There was one super power that I did fantasize about though...invisibility.

I spent countless hours of my youth contemplating the amazing feats that I could accomplish if only I could make myself invisible. I wondered how a day with this power would be, just 24 hours was all I wanted. I planned out such a day:

8:00 am - I wake up and I'm invisible, so of course I don't get dressed, because everyone knows that if you're invisible and you get dressed, people will be able to see your clothes.

8:30 am - I walk to the nearest McDonalds, slip unnoticed behind the counter and grab myself a couple egg mcmuffins and hash browns for breakfast, WITHOUT PAYING!

9:00 am - I continue down the block to the house of Melanie, the cute girl that I have a secret crush on but pretend to hate because she calls me "Stinky Travis" when she sees me in the halls. Of course, I have timed it just right and as I sneak invisibly into her room, she is undressing to take a shower.

10:00 am - I actually go to school, but not with good intentions. I unleash all sorts of shenanigans on unsuspecting teachers, the Principal and students that I loathe.

1:00 pm - I stroll into the girls locker room after gym class for a little shower show. This is clearly what having super powers is all about!

2:00 pm - I walk to the local bank, slink into the open safe and grab several bags of cash. In my pre-adolescent mind it either somehow did not occur to me that someone would see the "floating" bags of loot, (or mcmuffins, for that matter). Perhaps I conjured up some amazing "cloaking" device for concealing the bags.

The rest of the day went pretty much like this. As you can see, maybe I didn't have the great imagination I thought I did, since I'm pretty sure this was also the plot of some teen movie, like "Zapped" starring Scott Baio.

As an adult, being invisible would never work out. Whenever there was something you didn't want to do or didn't want to help out with you would likely make yourself invisible. This would just piss everyone off and when you showed up again, they'd say, "Where the hell were you?!" I guess the old adage that 90% of the job is just showing up is also true about life.

Now, having yourself cloned...That's the way to go!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Run Out Of Town On A Rail

Have you ever wondered how you got where you are? Where you live, I mean. For some of you, maybe it was a like a fairytale, once you found the love of your life, the two of you spend endless summer days on romantic drives in the country and discovered a sweet little village that you just fell in love with, so you bought an old farmhouse and moved in.

And then there are the rest of us, who looked at towns within about a 20 mile radius from where we grew up, and then found the town that was the best... only to discover that you can't afford the taxes there, let alone a house, so you lowered your standards a bit and ended up where you are now.

We live in Cary, and while there is nothing notably bad about the town, there's nothing notable about the town, period. I'm not complaining about where I live, I'm rather ambivalent about the whole thing. I don't think I'd be any more or less content living in Hampshire, or Woodstock, or Barrington.

We are here for the same reason as most, it's where our family is. Family is great and I don't ever regret moving close to the family. I just blame them incessantly for the fact that I'm here.  After all, I can't see any good reason why you live in the suburbs of Chicago, unless you loved going to Chicago. This would make sense, right? If generations previous said, "I love going to the city, but want to live in a safer place with more room and less traffic." There's only one problem, NOBODY in my family likes going into the city, nobody. Even we go maybe 3 or 4 times a year, tops. So why do we live here again?

Some folks would say I'd feel more of a connection to my town if I were more involved in civic functions, but those people can go to hell. This would be like telling a girl, "we have to have sex before I will know if I can love you", which probably wouldn't work either.

Don't get me wrong, there are many nice things that I like about our town, like the many parks and trails nearby, Silver Lake, and that sweet little bakery that just opened up by the Cary Diner. But I won't be too sad to leave the town either.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Klutter King

So, after spending my day off cleaning out closets and drawers, I have come to a conclusion; Our family is in need of an intervention. Now, far be it for me to piss on the dreams of others, or even myself for that matter. On the other hand, wouldn't it be great if there was some impartial 3rd party that could come into your house, go through all of your stuff, and pull out everything that is crap? Then they could sit you down and force you to face the facts.

"Travis, it's great to have goals, but I have some news for you...You are never going to be a professional Matador. So, I think we can both agree that it's safe to put this cape and sword on ebay."

We buy all of this junk that we don't need just because we have this image of who we want to be rather than who we are. This is sad, people. And it only worsens as the years go by and we've held onto this junk. Then God forbid someone suggest that you get rid of the stuff, because then you get all defensive about it and it amps up the importance.

"Hell no, you can not throw out my beeswax soap making kit! I'm gonna make my own soap someday, dammit!"

Why can't we just be honest with ourselves? We don't have enough time in the day to do all the laundry, so, how the hell are we going to set aside time to learn the fine art of wood carving? Yet, there they are, at the back of the drawer. Not one, but two, yes TWO wood carving kits, complete with the wood burning iron. Because apparently after you carve your little wooden figurines, you would want to burn something into them, who knows. Anyway, I tried to put them in the garage sale pile and the idea was quickly shot down. "Just think of the money we'll save when we can give wooden handmade gifts to all of our family!" I just stare. "Wouldn't it be better just to give everyone in the family these wacky unused gifts?"

All of this is more than you cared to know I'm sure, but was just the explanation you'll need. In a month when you find yourself at my house, opening up a box, and it's a perfectly brand new never-been-used rock tumbling kit, you'll know why.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tis' the "Wonderful" season.

I don't know if most of you are aware of it, but we're about a month away from christmas. Seriously...a month, well, okay 33 days. I know that many are staring, eyes wide, mouth agape in disbelief. But check the calender, it's true. Now that you've accepted that nugget of amazingness, it's time to gear up. Break out the decorations, the cookie recipies and that silly tie where Rudolph's nose lights up.

Anybody that knows me knows that I'm gayer than Adam Lambert for Christmas. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Some people choose to bitch about the excruciating task of making up a list of gifts for the seemingly endless amounts of people in their lives, ("Do you really need to give a gift to your mailman?!), bundling up to face the arctic conditions of a Midwest December only to stand in ridiculous lines to throw down their hard-earned cash on crap that the recipients will likely sell the following spring in their garage sale. Meanwhile, I say that this is, nay, but a tiny part of the most amazing season of the year, full of a graciousness and caring that is just not there during the rest of the year. Take Elvis, for example. Elvis undeniably had everything that a red-blooded American could want in life; money, houses, drugs, fame and more poontang than you can shake a stick at. With all of that, Elvis proclaimed, "...If every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world it would be...", now that's says something.

I love every single sweet morsel of the holiday, from the holiday episodes of Saved By The Bell, to putting an insane amount of ornaments on the tree; I even like fruitcake! But for me, the season of merriment all culminates with one major event. "Is it the warmth you feel when your entire family is gathered around you on Christmas Eve sharing gifts and laughter" you ask, I think not. "Is it seeing the twinkle in the eyes of your little children as they run downstairs to the tree on Christmas morning" you ask, don't make me slap you.

The pinnacle of the holiday season for me is experiencing "It's a Wonderful Life", the greatest movie of all time. I know that some of you might say, "But Trav, what about Rambo, or Three Men & a Little Lady?", and while they are each special in their own way, no movie can even begin to compare to IAWL. The only way that this movie ever let me down was several years ago. Soon after another tear-soaked viewing, I looked up the movie on Wikipedia. I was hoping to make a pilgrimage to the quint little town where the movie was shot, looking to catch a little bit of the magic. Shockingly, I learned that the whole town was fake, made up for the movie. I think I was just as taken aback by how naive I was about it. It was probably for the best, as I would likely have been disappointed by the real thing 50 years later anyway. I think that the reason I am so sweet on this movie, is that it drives home the point that is so-often lost in today's culture; that every single thing that every one of us does effects someone else in some way. So this year, I beg of you, Tivo this golden piece of Holiday Americana, sit the family down with steaming hot chocolate (don't forget the marshmallows!), and enjoy the greatest cinimagraphic masterpiece ever created. When I say "enjoy", I don't want you to "watch" the movie, hell, my dog can do that. I want you to "FEEL" the movie, put yourself in the shoes of  George Bailey, know that none of us are alone in feeling the disappointments when life doesn't go the way that we planned, realize that in the end all we ever have is each other. Lastly, I want you be sure to bring a box of tissues and bawl like a little bitch, I mean don't hold back at all. After all, Santa's watching.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Thing At A Time

Nov. 17th, 2010
Heather and I have been working through some of the issues that need to be addressed before we can hit the road full time and all I can really say is…wow…it’s a lot. The closest thing I can equate it to in my own experience is having our first child, in that you are voluntarily jumping head-first into something that you know will turn every aspect of your life upside down.  Here is just a sample of the issues we’ve been grappling with:
Trying to find an RV that the Jeep can tow that isn’t a sardine can
Health Insurance
Making love on the road
Who will empty the sewage tank
How to make a living on the road

That last one is a big one. After selling off nearly everything we own we expect to have a tidy nestegg (who says that?!). However, it would be just super if we could find a way to pay for living and traveling expenses without eating up our kids’ college funds. While we’ve (ok, I’ve) given thought to having Heather become an egg donor or a surrogate mother, these ideas have been shot down.  Since Heather controls the womb, this means I’ll have to keep working at a “more conventional” solution.  We have been kicking around ideas for different writing projects and maybe corporate sponsorship. If you receive these updates in the future with the tagline –“This update brought to you by Dicks Sporting Goods”, you’ll know why. For now, we continue the quest for employment where you don’t actually have to do any work, oh, and it should pay handsomely as well. We’ll keep you posted.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"The Plan"

Nov. 15th, 2010

Ok, so now I've managed to somehow talk my logical wife into my crazy idea of moving on the an RV... for a year. In discussing the idea with friends and family, everyone is very supportive, though likely, they are saying that we're nuts behind our backs. After some deliberating with Heather, we have come up with the following "Plan":

In March, we'll rent an RV over spring break to test out living on the road. We will be renting a small trailer (and I mean SMALL!) since that is all our Jeep can really tow. At the end of the week, if the four of us are all still alive and have all of our limbs, we may move forward with (who knows when) the goal of living on the road full time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Call Me Crazy...

October 30th, 2010

So, a few months ago I read this book, "The Ride of Our Lives" by Mike Leonard. It cronicles the true-life adventures of a family of 5 that traveled around the US in an RV for three months or so. The book was fantastic; sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious, but always interesting. When I was done reading I thought, "Hey, we should do that!" Heather and I have talked for years about how we'd love to see all of the US. We have made a few roadtrips (pre-children), to North Carolina, Florida and Northern Wisconsin. We longed to see the western US, the eastern coast, more of the beautiful southern states, and everywhere in between. The problem has been, how to go about it...where to go first, how to take off for long periods of time with work, school, and the Subway stores to contend with. And so, it hasn't happened.

After reading "The Ride of Our Lives" I did a little Googling and found blogs and websites of several families who were living full time on the road in their RV's. This concept struck me like a bolt of lightening! I casually mentioned to Heather this amazing idea and she seemed mildly receptive to it, but surprisingly didn't shoot it down. Since Heather is the voice of reason in our household, I took this as a sign that it was not such a nutty idea.